Statement on the anniversary of discovery of unmarked graves at Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc

In acknowledgement and commemoration of the anniversary date of the discovery of unmarked burials at Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre extends its heartfelt condolences, thoughts and support to residential school Survivors and their families, the people of the Tk’emlúps Nation, and all Indigenous people across Canada. As ongoing investigations related to unmarked burials are carried out, we stand by Indigenous people and communities in their quest for the complete truth of the Indian residential school system to be exposed, and for justice and reparation to be realised.

One year ago, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc announced the discovery of 215 unmarked burials at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, once the largest residential school in Canada. The discovery was devastating for the community and shocking the world, but did not surprise Tk’emlúps or other Indigenous communities across the country, who have always known about the scores of Indigenous children who died at, or went missing from, the schools. As Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir said in the official announcement, “We had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify.”

It’s important to acknowledge that each discovery impacts families in multiple communities across the country. Indigenous children were often sent to schools far from their home communities, sometimes in different provinces. Children at the former Kamloops school came from home communities of throughout BC.

In the year since the discovery at Tk’emlúps, thousands of unmarked graves have been uncovered at former residential schools across the country. Some findings predate those at Tk’emlúps, and other investigations are now getting underway. Most recently, the George Gordon First Nation announced the discovery of 14 potential unmarked graves at the site of the former Gordon’s Indian Residential School, and the Saddle Lake Cree Nation revealed its ongoing investigation, since 2004, into the discovery of numerous human remains in unmarked graves in the community cemetery near the former site of the Blue Quills Indian residential school.

“This is a critical moment in the history of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people,” says the Centre’s Academic Director Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Aki-Kwe. “It’s a time of truth, but it’s also a time of trauma. It’s absolutely imperative that First Nations and Indigenous communities get the supports they need—be they funding, legal and technical support, or mental wellness care—to complete these investigations and bring some closure to the residential school system’s legacy of loss, betrayal and injustice.”

To mark the anniversary of the discovery, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is holding a day of ceremony at Pow Wow Arbour, on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. All are welcome, and those who are unable to attend in person can join the event via livestream. Find a link and agenda here.

To learn more about the history of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, visit the Centre’s collections website to explore a featured collection, resource set and school timeline.

If you or someone you know are triggered, please reach out. Counselling and other supports are available:

For residential school Survivors: The Indian Residential School Survivors Society provides grief & loss counselling, crisis counselling, trauma counselling, and other supports including traditional healing methods and medicines. To access the 24-hour IRSSS Crisis Line call 1 (866) 925-4419, or visit for more information.

For Indigenous peoples: Hope for Wellness helpline offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous people across Canada. Phone and chat counselling is available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut on request. Visit to chat with someone, or, call the 24-hour helpline at 1 (855) 242-3310.

For UBC Indigenous students: UBC Counselling Services offers virtual appointments with an Indigenous counsellor. To schedule an appointment, call, (604) 822-3811.

For UBC students: Here2Talk offers free, single-session, 24-hour counselling by phone or chat from anywhere in the world. Visit to chat, or call the 24-hour helpline at 1 (877) 857-3397.